Green Acres: The Complete First Season
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: Approximately 25 minutes per episode / 820 minutes total
Aspect Ratio: Full-Frame (4:3)
Audio: English – Monaural
“Green Acres is the place to be…”
Green Acres was initially conceived as a spin-off to the popular situation comedy Petticoat Junction, with both shows being set in the valley of Hooterville. Each of these successful programs were produced by Paul Henning, who also produced the immensely successful The Beverly Hillbillies series. Despite having the pressure to follow in the footsteps of Petticoat Junction, Green Acres proved to be no slouch, enjoying a successful six-year, 170 episode run of its own from September 1965 until September 1971! The series even rose all the way to number six in the Nielsen Ratings during the 1966-1967 Season!
Green Acres went from concept to reality when Mr. Henning was approached by writer Jay Sommers, who was lobbying for a television incarnation of his radio show Granby's Green Acres. Fortunately, Mr. Henning saw potential in this show, which featured a big-shot New York lawyer Oliver Douglas (to be played by Eddie Albert) and his high-society wife Lisa (to be played by Eva Gabor) fleeing Manhattan for a life in the country, and being forced to accept the primitive conditions of their new rural home. The extravagant, stylish Lisa was worried she would be unable to fit in with a country lifestyle, or survive live without Park Avenue shopping, but Oliver was somehow able to convince her that the rural pleasures of Hooterville would be worth the costs of leaving New York behind.
Interestingly, Lisa would be the one to adapt more quickly and easily to life in “the sticks”, effortlessly finding new friends and defusing small-town dilemmas with her big city wit. Indeed, it almost seems as though her being oblivious to her new surroundings and continuing to live exactly as she had in Manhattan, including adorning herself with luxurious coats and evening attire, was a benefit in this regard. Oliver, on the other hand, never seems to blend in, despite his strong desire to live a simple, country life. I mean really, the guy wears a three-piece suit into the field!
Of course, you can’t have a series with just two characters, so frequent regulars were a key ingredient in Green Acres’ recipe for laughs. Eb Dawson (Tom Lester) was the farm handyman and Fred (Hank Patterson) and Doris Ziffel (Barbara Pepper & Fran Ryan) were the kooky neighbors, who also served as parents to the famous Arnold Ziffel, a prized pig that behaved much as a human does. And who could forget the consummate country conman Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram)? Interestingly, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction also shared a common character in Sam Drucker (Frank Cady), the proprietor of the General Store. The best, most memorable performances were, of course, turned in by Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, but the supporting players were always up to the task, and gave Green Acres a large part of its charm.
All in all, I think Green Acres was a very funny and effective, albeit non-traditional, situation comedy, which benefited from an ample amount of fish-out-of-water humor, running gags, and fine comedic performances. For these reasons, the show was quite popular during its initial run, and after cancellation Green Acres also proved to have tremendous staying power in syndication. Due to its continuing popularity, Green Acres even spawned a 1990 made-for-TV movie, Return To Green Acres, with Eddie Albert, Eva Gabor, and many of the other remaining original cast members reprising their roles.
For easy access to your favorites, the episodes are entitled as follows. Please note that they are not organized in chronological order, although the reason why escapes me. As always, the ones I watched are noted by asterisks.
** Episode 1 – “Oliver Buys a Farm” (Air Date 9/15/1965)
Oliver Douglas and his diamond-clad wife Lisa have all the comforts of city life. However, when Oliver buys a farm and leaves city life behind, his whole family thinks he has gone crazy! Worse, persuading his sophisticated, city-loving wife to live like a rural woman might drive them both crazy!
Episode 2 – “Lisa’s First Day On The Farm” (Air Date 9/22/1965)
The Douglases finally reach Hooterville, where Oliver promises his wife a hot bath and nice meal in their new abode. When they discover the town con man, Mr. Haney, has pilfered their oven, bathtub, and even the kitchen sink, Oliver is forced to buy back his own appliances.
** Episode 3 – “The Decorator” (Air Date 9/29/1965)
Oliver’s plan to get his tractor working hits a snag when Lisa insists that he clean up their disheveled house. Sadly, the Douglases discover that the town’s only decorator is a cake decorator.
Episode 4 –“The Best Laid Plans” (Air Date 10/6/1965)
When Lisa leaves for New York, the gossip grapevine gets going, and everyone thinks she has left Oliver. But is Lisa gone for good, or just packing up the penthouse for a return to the country.
Episode 5 – “My Husband, The Rooster Renter” (Air Date 10/13/1965)
When Oliver’s farm is declared a structural disaster, he swears to work from sun-up to sundown to fix it up. Unfortunately, when the swindling Mr. Haney rents Oliver a rooster who doesn’t crow, he oversleeps, and finds he has to find a way to make the rooster do his job!
** Episode 6 – “Furniture, Furniture, Who’s Got The Furniture?” (Air Date 10/20/1965)
Once the Douglases’ furniture arrives from New York, Lisa looks forward to adding some style to her home. Unfortunately, the furniture makes its way into the hands of the unethical Mr. Haney, who once again tries to sell Oliver his own things back!
Episode 7 – “Neighborliness” (Air Date 10/27/1965)
With planting season around the corner, Oliver is gung ho about getting the farm up and running. Unfortunately, the equipment he purchased from Mr. Haney won’t plow an inch!
** Episode 8 – “Lisa, the Helpmate” (Air Date 11/3/1965)
In an effort to ensure his seedlings grow properly, Oliver has his soil sampled by the State Scientific College. When the study shows the filed is full of mysterious compounds, it seems Oliver’s bumper-crop dreams might be cut down before they even take root.
Episode 9 – “You Can’t Plug In a 2 With a 6” (Air Date 11/10/1965)
Oliver tries using tried-and-true scientific principles to grow his crops, while his fellow farmers rely on the surefire method – Mrs. Ziffel’s aching lower back.
** Episode 10 – “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” (Air Date 11/17/1965)
The Hooterville phone company finally makes it to the Douglas homestead, only to run out of wire just as they reach the house! As a result, the Douglases are forced to risk their safety and climb to the top of a telephone pole to receive calls.
Episode 11 – “Parity Begins At Home” (Air Date 11/24/1965)
When the local farm authority threatens to fine Oliver for exceeding his allowable wheat acreage, he vehemently protests, taking his case all the way to Washington!
Episode 12 – “Lisa Has a Calf” (Air Date 12/8/2965)
Although Eleanor the cow is expecting a calf, somehow the townsfolk confuse this situation, and spread the rumor that Lisa is expecting a child.
Episode 13 – “The Wedding Anniversary” (Air Date 12/15/1965)
The Douglases’ plans for a romantic anniversary dinner are ruined when their crops become infested with pests. Things get even worse when Oliver has a run in with the Secretary of Agriculture.
** Episode 14 – “What Happened In Scranton?” (Air Date 12/22/1965)
All hell breaks loose in Hooterville when Lisa opens a beauty parlor, and local women stop doing their housework for fear of ruining their hairdos.
Episode 15 –“How To Enlarge a Bedroom” (Air Date 12/29/1965)
To satisfy Lisa’s demands for a larger bedroom, Oliver enlists the help of some local carpenters. In the middle of the project, however, the building inspector threatens to deny the Douglases a permit, and halts construction, leaving the room without walls or a roof!
Episode 16 – “Give Me Land, Lots of Land” (Air Date 1/5/1966)
When Oliver buys the neighboring farm, Lisa is excited about the possibility of moving into a home with running water. When Oliver leaves town, she hurriedly moves everything into the new place. The only wrinkle is that the home was never part of the deal!
** Episode 17 – “I Didn’t Raise My Husband to Be a Fireman” (Air Date 1/19/1966)
Strangely, the Hooterville Fire Department seems to value musical prowess more than the ability to fight fires. As a result, when Oliver fails to bring along a guitar to his first fire, his fire-fighting career looks primed to go up in smoke.
** Episode 18 – “Lisa Bakes a Cake” (Air Date 1/26/1966)
Now that Oliver considers himself a bona-fide farmer, he becomes incensed when he is listed as “Attorney at Law” in the phone book, and assumes he will be swamped with calls for legal aid. Much to his surprise, the phone doesn’t ring!
Episode 19 – “Sprained Ankle, Country Style” (Air Date 2/2/1966)
When Oliver suffers a sprained ankle, his neighbors come bearing well-wishes and food. However, when these helpful folks decide to hang around for a movie, and eat everything in sight, Oliver’s recovery is dealt a setback.
** Episode 20 – “The Price of Apples” (Air Date 2/9/1966)
Oliver decides to drive his apple crop to the wholesaler himself, but when the truck he leased breaks down, Oliver’s profits look like they will go right down the drain.
Episode 21 – “What’s In a Name?” (Air Date 2/16/1966)
Ralph Monroe takes a liking to Mr. Kimball, but he refuses to date a woman named Ralph. Oliver decides to come to the rescue by changing her name, but runs into trouble when he discovers Hooterville doesn’t recognize his license to practice law.
Episode 22 – “The Day of Decision” (Air Date 2/23/1966)
Lisa has fulfilled her promise of staying a full six months in Hooterville. Will she stay, or head back to the big city?
** Episode 23 – “A Pig In a Poke” (Air Date 3/9/1966)
Oliver heads to New York for a speech at Harvard, and discovers that he has brought an uninvited guest along with him.
Episode 24 – “The Ballad of Molly Turgiss” (Air Date 4/6/1966)
Oliver becomes fascinated with a local legend about a woman who was so homely she died friendless. When Lisa meets this woman’s spirit, she offers to give the ghost a makeover so she can finally rest in peace.
** Episode 25 – “The Deputy” (Air Date 3/16/1966)
When Deputy Sheriff Drucker goes on a trip, Oliver is pegged to fill in for him. Unfortunately, clumsy Oliver handcuffs himself to Lisa, and loses the key!
Episode 26 – “Double Drick” (Air Date 3/23/1966)
Thanks to Mr. Drucker forgetting to submit Oliver’s application for electricity, he has a whole host of woes trying to power up his home.
** Episode 27 – “Send a Boy to College” (Air Date 5/4/1966)
Oliver offers to help pay a farmhand’s way through college, but passing the entrance exam could be a challenge when the young man misses the first question on the test.
Episode 28 – “Never Look a Gift Tractor in the Mouth” (Air Date 4/27/1966)
When Lisa inadvertently sends Oliver’s birthday present (a new tractor) to the wrong address, she must convince the recipients that it was merely a mistake.
Episode 29 – “Horse? What Horse?” (Air Date 5/11/1966)
Mistrust abounds when Oliver claims to have seen a horse none of the locals have ever seen. Does the equine really exist, or is it a figment of Oliver’s imagination?
Episode 30 – “Culture” (Air Date 5/25/1966)
Lisa lures a conductor to town to give Hooterville a touch of class, but the conductor is shocked to discover that the town’s musicians are all part of the local fire department.
Episode 31 – “The Rains Come” (Air Date 5/18/1966)
Oliver engages in yet another battle with Mr. Haney over a “rain machine”, which proves to be a Sioux Indian. When Oliver refuses to pay Mr. Haney, the matter ends in court.
** Episode 32 – “Uncle Ollie” (Air Date 6/1/1966)
Oliver prepares for the arrival of his tiny nephew, but is shocked to discover that he is indeed a long-haired, motorcycle-riding hippie! Once he shows up, Oliver tries to run him out of Hooterville before his sanity goes.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Although the visual quality of the episodes in this set is inconsistent, MGM deserves some credit for making them look as good as they do overall. To begin with, color reproduction is frequently very good, with rich, vibrant reds and pastel colors, generally accurate flesh tones, and bright whites. Contrast and black level are also handled adeptly, leading to nice, textured images and plenty of shadow detail.
Unfortunately, some of the episodes in this set contain some distractions, such as a considerable amount of dust and debris in the source material, flesh tones that lean slightly toward orange, and a bit of haloing around the edges of objects and characters. A couple of the episodes that fall into this category are episodes numbers one and twenty-three, which are especially soft and plagued by lots of debris.
Despite this set’s inconsistency, Green Acres looks as good or better than I have ever seen its episodes look, and some episodes, like numbers fourteen and twenty, look outstanding. While I am somewhat disappointed that some episodes look much worse than others, I am inclined to lay the blame for this on the source material. Even though I am only a casual fan of the show, to be able to see it without the compression and motion artifacts that plague satellite TV was a joy! Overall, I suppose that considering the show’s age, things could be much worse, but I still have to deduct some points for the episodes that are not up to snuff.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Although I am no fan of monaural soundtracks, each episode of Green Acres sounds pretty darn good! Specifically, frequency response is nice and even, and dialogue has a warm, full character to it. Music reproduction is fine as well, particularly the show’s now-classic opening theme. Honestly, although the encoded audio never transcends to the sublime, there is not much to quibble about at all. This is probably being “nitpicky”, but the only flaw I heard was that the laugh track tended to get a little muddy from time to time, although this was never a major distraction. A good job overall!!!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Green Acres first season arrives on DVD in a solid, but somewhat under-whelming two disc set. The episodes are what they are, so there is no problem there, and the audio quality was better than I had expected it to be, but the inconsistent visual quality and complete lack of extras were a bit of a letdown. I know that this show’s age probably impacted both of these areas, but this show has enjoyed almost 30 years of popularity, so it is particularly disappointing that no extras of any kind are offered. Oh well, maybe on season two….
I guess the bottom line is that this set is worthy of a purchase by fans, especially since it includes all 32 episodes from Green Acres wacky first season. If you have a fondness for this program, and can deal with the inconsistent visual quality between episodes, than your viewing room is the “place to be”, because this Green Acres set will keep you busy for some time! While I cannot give this release my highest recommendation, especially with a list price of $40, I would still suggest that fans, or those who want to catch up on some classic comedy, check it out! Recommended!!!
January 13th, 2004